What I’m doing in Africa

I think some of you are wondering what I’m doing here in Africa besides site-seeing and longing for faster connectivity. It’s an odd thing, for sure.

There’s only one flight from the US to Accra, Ghana and I was on it. Looking around the cabin you see mostly Ghanaians and the white people you just wonder about. At the risk of grossly generalizing, I’d say business class is full of well-heeled business people and perhaps aid workers with enough frequent flyer miles to qualify. It’s a distinction I’ve been pondering since I arrived. Which am I?

The IBM Corporate Service Corps, of which I am a part, is a bit of both. Our goals are equal measures corporate social responsibility for a global enterprise and advance market research in a promising country. There are 10 of us here — and teams elsewhere around the world — who are helping small businesses pro bono both because it is the right thing to do and because it provides us with knowledge about how best IBM could become part of the marketplace here.

Each team has multiple projects. Mine is with a group called Aid to Artisans, the primary NGO tasked with promoting, educating, and marketing traditional Ghanaian handicraft locally and worldwide.


Here are our specific objectives.

  1. Assist ATAG to construct an interactive website to serve as an informational tool, showcasing the activities and operations of the organization to the outside world. The site should help the organisation to create more avenues for market development through e-commerce and to enable ATAG to communicate and link-up with members of its affiliate association (ACNAG) in a more free and convenient manner.
  2. Conduct a supply chain analysis serving to bridge the gap between the concept stage of product development to the production stage through to the end user of the product in question. The analysis will include sourcing raw materials, designing, prototyping, production of products to packaging, warehousing, exporting and retailing through to the consumer.
  3. Capture the relationship between the processes and document them, if possible, audio-visually.

It’s a strange middle ground we occupy. Not exactly business, not exactly aid. (Indeed, some NGO folks we’ve met expressed outright skepticism at our mission here. While, back home, most businesspeople take a while to understand why we’d ever go to Ghana.)

My sub-team colleagues are the talented Julie Lockwood and Charlie Ung.


When we’re not traveling to meet the producers in the villages or the exporters at the coast we work at the Aid to Artisans field office in Kumasi. It’s a great space at the Cultural Center. Can’t beat the ambient music.

In the queue is a series of posts on each of the different types of artisans we’ve visited. That’s the good stuff. Soon.

One response to “What I’m doing in Africa”

  1. mg says :

    Man I thought you were there to clean up the blood diamond mess!